FIRST PROJECT MANAGEMENT STEPS TO START YOUR PMP CAREER
- STAKEHOLDER REGISTER
The bigger the project, the higher amount of people involved. The higher amount of people, the more difficult it is to track who is responsible for what. Worse yet, there are people that are not part of the team roster but who will be impacted by the progress or outcome of a specific job. For example, think about a project where you are renovating an old dog park for the city. The city is The Owner, which is your client, but the project will benefit the neighbors, which will be the end users. Your responsibility is towards the owner but, if you do not consider the neighbors who currently use the old park, your project may be at risk of delays or obstacles (perhaps this is the only park close to many, and the neighbors will not budge on preferring you work during the night?).
A stakeholder register as a minimum should include the Stakeholder's name, the title, the role, and a preferred way of communication. Other useful information is how much power the stakeholder has, what is the stake on the project, and the influence. These factors will give you a sense of urgency of how much you should be dealing with a particular stakeholder of a project.
Figure 1. Stakeholder register entry example
The contact method for stakeholders is extremely important. You may know this by heart for your projects but imagine the challenge if you don't have a stakeholder register and a new member joins the team. Does the client require phone calls exclusively? Does he want to be called daily, weekly, monthly? Is there a preferred way to send documentation? Is the project using a shared file storage service? Do I send both physical and digital copies? So many ways to interact, and it only gets more complicated as the project grows and progresses. By thinking this way, you are starting to create a Communication Plan, which is a fundamental component of project management.
- REQUIREMENTS COMPLIANCE MATRIX
The project goal is always to achieve a desired outcome. In a typical business environment, a project aims to satisfy the client's wishes. Our client's wishes are given to us as Project Scope, which are the client's requirements regarding a specific product or service. A Requirements Compliance Matrix is the document where all requirements from the client are listed to keep track and verify that we are delivering a project that will fulfill the client's expectations.
Figure 2. Requirements compliance matrix entry example
A requirements compliance matrix should also include other stakeholder requirements, and any other scope that the project should comply with other than the client's wishes, such as local regulations. A requirements compliance matrix is an especially useful tool to monitor that all requirements are being met, and is a helpful tool to understand which requirements, if any, cannot be met, or if an alternative will be proposed to the client.
- ISSUE LOG
No matter how well prepared the team is, issues will always arise in projects; this is unavoidable. Where project managers are measured is in how they oversee and manage issues. When an issue occurs, the first action shall always be: Register the event in the Issue Log.
Figure 3. Issue log entry example
If you have trouble identifying and categorizing project issues, think whether a particular event can affect the project cost, schedule, or quality. It is always helpful to locate the issue according to the Work Breakdown Structure of the project, which will help assign responsible parties to initiate an appropriate mitigation plan. It is also useful to categorize issues by their associated impact (will it affect cost or schedule?), and by their priority (should it be addressed immediately or is this affecting a later phase of the project?). Issue logs are important tools to study the resolution of issues in projects, as part of the Lessons Learned that organizations should perform to keep improving their processes and their knowledge.
- BEST KNOWN WAY REPOSITORY
The mission of most organizations is to do things better than others. That's the secret to remain competitive. A company, by value of their expertise and experience, will have a way of doing things, wishing of course that their way is the best. While this might not always be the case, at least companies should aim to do things to the best of their knowledge, which is their best-known way.
A best-known way repository is a place where a company stores their most up-to-date, polished procedures. For example, if you are in a project that includes design of a product the company has done successfully before, the project team will be wise to recreate the means and methods to replicate their success. In fact, having the best-known way written down will give the opportunity for people to give feedback, potentially leading to updated, therefore better, versions of their processes.
The best-known way of your department is how they do things currently. Start by gathering these procedures that your department does well and document them. Challenge the project team to document issues, through the issue log, which may have come up while doing things according to the best-known way. The resolution of key issues will most likely lead to changes in the best-known ways of organizations. This is what continuous improvement is all about.
- GATE CHECKS - LESSONS LEARNED
If you do a survey amongst people with project management experience regarding their most embarrassing scenario in a project, you will not see many results about a particular mistake. Mistakes are not embarrassing... unless you commit the same mistake again.
Projects have separate phases: initiation, planning, execution, and closure. A gate check is a preparatory meeting that occurs for team members that are about to close a phase and continue to the next. When you are closing a phase, this is the perfect moment to talk about the LESSONS LEARNED. What did the group learn during the phase? You will realize that keeping an issue log with issue resolutions will come in handy when meeting with the group to discuss what events transpired and how they were addressed. Actually, not only issues are expected to be discussed in a LESSONS LEARNED meeting; there are also positive experiences that the team will want to share. The most important thing is keeping the practice of closing phases and introducing new ones with GATE CHECK meetings, to learn about previous experiences and to plan for future milestones.
- RISK REGISTER
A risk register is the closest thing to trying "to see into the future" that you can attempt in your project."
Figure 4. Risk register entry example
In a risk register you try to think about potential scenarios that may affect schedule, cost, or quality in your project. Effectively, what you are trying to do is to think about issues before they happen. The issue logs from previous projects are a great place to see what are the potential scenarios that you should consider for your new projects. Also, you may want to involve experts and their expert judgement to help you identify and analyze potential harmful scenarios.
A risk register is a great tool to categorize risks by assigning an impact and likelihood score. You might not be strong at first in assigning these scores, but experience, past data, and people more experienced than you will be your best helpers. Once you identify risks and their score, the next step is to think about resolutions or controls. A control measure also gets a score based on the chances that it will mitigate the risk, avoid the risk, transfer the risk, or plainly accept it.
- STANDUP MEETINGS
The most useful tip: constant communication. Projects fail most, not because of lack of planning, lack of tools or lack of skilled team members. Projects fail because of lack of communication.
Standup meetings get their name because they are supposed to be done standing up, which means they are not comfortable; they are supposed to be succinct, concise, and to the point. Stand up meetings are supposed to be daily. In a standup meeting, project team members should answer the following questions:
- What did I do yesterday?
- What will I do today?
- What is blocking my progress?
These questions will help project team members to get validation from leaders, it will help them understand if they are on the right path, and it will help project managers leverage team members by removing obstacles of progress, for example, lack of training or experience, help with software, work or documents needed to be provided by others. Exercise stand up meetings and your team will start working a lot better together.